Thursday, January 28, 2010

It occurs to me...

... that the expectations of the political process in this country are ridiculous.

1) At the local level, we elect individuals to represent us in Congress based upon, what we believe to be, shared beliefs, values, and policy positions. We send them off to Washington to deliver on those promises and then, over the next two to six years (depending on whether they are a Congressman/woman or Senator) we judge them on their ability to deliver what they promised during the elections.

2) We do the same thing at the Presidential level. We pick one person based upon what they represent, to get things done.

3) As a citizenry we then spend the next two to six years complaining because these people as a collective group do not "meet in the middle", "compromise", or "work together".

4) #3 requires that the people in #1 and #2 give up something because, let's face it, no matter what words you use to make it sound nice, compromise requires the person on each side of an issue, to let go of/give up something. This, by default, means that some of the things that the people in #1 and #2 promised, cannot be delivered upon, at least to the extent to which they were promised.

5) We make the President a separate branch of government that has really little or no real influence on what goes on in Congress, thus making it all but impossible to affect any real change because he/she needs to persuade a group of more than 500 people fighting at the local level for their own constituents vs. the greater good, and/or playing partisan politics and infighting for their own professional gain.

6) We give the minority in Congress the ability to filibuster bills that the opposing party brings to vote, thus ensuring that the minority can scupper the efforts of the elected majority, and preventing the very changes that the majority of voters mandated by electing the party in the majority in the first place.

7) We then criticize the people in #1 and #2 for not doing what they promised to do, although when they actually do #3, they can't deliver on a lot of what they promised, and when they don't do #3, the opposing party does #6 and kills it anyway.

It's like putting a CEO in charge of a company and then asking him/her to lobby all the employees to create, vote-on, and enact his/her company decisions! No company could ever be run that way. Why do we expect that our country can?

Now, let me be clear: I am not a fan of many of the people in Congress, even on my side of the aisle (I am also not one of those people who thinks it's as simple as saying that everyone is corrupt and/or worthless either). But it seems to me that the system is set-up to have you be damned if you do and damned if you don't.

We say we want change but our system of government is set-up to force centrist policy-making which, more often than not, reinforces the status quo.

I voted for President Obama because he stood on a platform of change but, honestly, I have to say that never ONCE did I think that the system we have in place in this country would actually let him affect much of that change. I'm not surprised that the health-care bill is all-but dead. I never expected it to pass. That's why I haven't been getting all excited this past year about it on this blog. It was dead before it started.

I think it's time to get real in this country. Either you want something to happen, in which case you have to accept that not everyone will agree with the outcome and that's just life (get more votes next time, folks!) or you agree that everything's mostly fine as it is and harmony (or the effort towards it) is more important than results. (Quick pause while I vomit.)

Yes, it is true that you can argue that the current system prevents radical shifts and thus ensures that change, overall, can be incremental. BUT it also discourages big, sensitive issues from being tackled at all - like health care, like social security, like tax reform - all of which have been broached numerous times but always without result.

Although it is a noble goal, it's just not possible to please everyone. We are not kindergardeners playing a "no win/no lose" soccer match. We are grown-ups and the reality of life is that, for change to be enacted, some people are going to end up happy and some people are going to end up pissed off. That's life.


Urban Koda said...

Well said!

Sometimes I wonder how much people really care about politics though.

It seems everyone gets excited when their guy wins, or likes to complain when their guy doesn't, or he screws up.

But first, you can't get much more than half the country out to vote, and then after the vote, they just leave it all to the representative and focus on other parts of their lives.

I think the country has the government they deserve. One who as a whole is incapable of change and more comfortable just keeping up with the status quo.

TravelVixen said...

You're right, of course. I guess I was saying the same thing myself. We do have the government we deserve. But then, collectively, we can't bitch about things not being the way we want them.

For instance, right now there's a huge hoohaa about the state of our roads in California. Potholes are causing damage to cars and tv stations are doing pieces on specific, bad stretches of road;
exposes on the 'inefficiency' of Caltrans. BUT, statewide the budget shortfall for street and road maintenance is projected at $71.4 billion over the next 10 years. Now, we all use the roads but ask someone if they'll pay an extra dime in taxes to fix it (or to create a reasonable budget to maintain the roads to avoid such deterioration), the answer is no. People think money grows on trees in this country and that the government can operate on a skeleton budget. It's crazy!

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